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Jumbo! Guides: Next Generation Browsers

Apr 10, 2000, 19:34 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Rafael Hernandez)

by Rafael Hernandez, Jumbo! Guides

For the past few years there haven't been many significant advances in the Internet browser market. It's been two programs consistently battling it out, trying to get a larger piece of the market share with one falling behind. Of course, we're talking about Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape's Navigator and as of right now Internet Explorer holds a large chunk of the market and gains more by the day.

Was Netscape to sit idly by while they lose out to their rival? Of course not. They were hidden away working on the latest and greatest version of their web browser and just recently they unveiled a preview version. But look out, the very same day Microsoft released a preview version of their very own "up and coming" browser. What's in store for your future browsing? We'll take a look here in our Next Generation Browser Guide. Before we delve into these two browsers, you'll have to remember a few things. These are preview releases, meaning they aren't final versions or even close to final. There are sure to be many revisions and updates that affect how the programs will run before they're released. Features that are included now may not be in the future, and by the same token, they may add some new intriguing features.

Stability should be a concern if you're going to attempt using these two programs. Some features or even web pages may send the browser into a tizzy, possibly causing it to crash out or crash the entire system. If you're willing to try, we'd suggest backing up all of your important files before installing either.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5

Yes the browser that has been at the center of a major legal battle has received yet some more polishing in the form of a new version. Internet Explorer 5.5 is, for the most part, just an enhancement to the previous version and doesn't really have anything that's dramatically different at first glance. Logical enough as most interim releases, such as those the in .(1-9) form, add behind the scene features while new .0 releases generally house changes on how a program looks and runs overall.

As with previous IE's you'll have to download a small program you'll have to run in order to install the components onto your system. With this small installer, you can chose to install a full version of the program, or for the more advanced users, you can pick and choose which components you want.

Once you have it installed you'll probably say to yourself "Nothing has changed!" As we explained above, this preview release adds features that are not readily apparent. Travel to websites over time however and you'll see the features in action. Support for standards such as SMIL has been included. SMIL was created by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) to allow web developers to create web pages where many different elements work in a synchronized fashion. An example would be an animation or streaming file playing on a web page and then having the web page itself change during certain points of the animation to highlight or expand upon what's happening.

The program also includes improved Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) support, as well as new DHTML features. Granted we could go in-depth on everything that was added in this release but we would end up having a 15 page article on our hands. If you're a web developer and would like to know just what has been added we suggest you visit the IE 5.5 developers page. Here is where developers can go for in-depth information, and in some cases, view sample HTML code and example pages.

For the rest of us browser users, it's a nice release that'll allow web developers to bring us more feature-rich websites but this release isn't a necessary download for us just yet. We'd wait for it to be in final form before downloading. Of course if you want to see the latest web designs as they were meant to be seen, then by all means try the browser out.

Netscape Navigator 6.0

They've been at the drawing board for quite a while now, attempting to create a browser and fostering the Open Source movement in the hopes of winning back some of that elusive market share back. With Netscape Navigator 6.0 it appears they have a shot at just that. They've taken a page from various playbooks including Microsoft's own with their installation routine. Similar to Internet Explorer's you first download a small program and through it you choose the features you want.

One glaring change you'll notice immediately is its interface. Based on the familiar color scheme it's, in this reviewer's opinion, more eye pleasing and user friendly than previous versions. Beyond the basic controls, the browser now features a "My Sidebar" feature, which contains separate tabs that contain customizable information, ranging from news and a stock quote/portfolio tracker, to tabs for sites such as CNN and eBay. Since the browser was only just released, your options for additional tabs isn't very large but as time passes we're sure more and more sites will support this feature.

The browser isn't the only part of the program mind you; they've carried over all of your favorite add-on programs such as the e-mail/newsgroup reader, web page composer, and address book. All of the extra features have the same look and feel as the browser and include the same "My Sidebar" addition. It's odd at first, but you're always able to get a look at your stock quotes while you're typing up an email or whipping up a web page in the composer.

The browser handles pages well; content is displayed as quickly as the browser gets the information. There are a few websites that did not display properly but it's nothing major and we can't tell if it's the fault of the program or with the web page coding itself. Really, there's very little wrong with the program and we hope to see it in final version soon.

Overall, even in its current form, Netscape Navigator 6 is still a solid program with support for most major HTML standards and a feature set that rivals Microsoft's browser. If you're in the mood to check out a new browser, we'd suggest you try this one.


That's all for our Next Generation Browsers Guide, we hope you've gotten an idea of what to expect from the two big names in the browser market. One thing's for sure, both products are worthy competitors, and competition is good for the end user.

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